MIAS 2014: The Final Hall, Part One

“Save the best for last”, as people usually go. Well, the organisers of MIAS 2014 decided to try their hand at it, filling the final hall of the show with cars that gently burn themselves into your memory. Some of them are surprising examples of cars you see on a daily basis, some of them have never been seen on these shores, and at least one of them are sure to draw colourful opinions.

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Not a Maserati.

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Entering the hall you are met by a suitably car-show type of selection. Z3, SC430, VIP-style Camry and a Defender, all proudly shined up with Meguiar’s products.

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And then you turn to your right and are met by this pristine 1965 Mustang coupe from Alex Restoration. It looks perfect, but it was not a “fresh off the production line” type of restoration.

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Mickey Thompson Sportsmans mounted on American Racing Torq-Thrusts. This is the quintessential wheel/tire combo of the 60’s American hot rodding scene. Cragar 5-spokes, Magnum 500s or Halibrand slot mags would pull off the period look just as well, but Torq-Thrusts are so instantly recognizable and look right on just about any mid-60’s American car.

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First shown on April 13, 1964 at the New York World’s Fair and released for sale on April 17, the Mustang was the brainchild of Lee Iaccoca. The genius of the Mustang was in its options. Depending on the boxes one ticked on the order form, one could end up with a sporty two-door sedan the working man could be proud of, a premium coupe for the middle manager, or a screaming quarter-mile stormer for the young man with speed in his veins. It flew off dealership lots, and made Ford substantial profits, as underneath the pretty two-door body were the running components of the hopelessly mundane Falcon.

Never mind that the Plymouth Barracuda, which was released on April 1, 1964, actually beat the Mustang to market by two weeks; it didn’t help that the Barracuda clearly showed its Valiant roots. Or that the “shaker” hood scoop was actually first previewed on the Barracuda before gracing the 1969 Mustang Cobra Jet, it was the Mustang that sold, hence the collective term “pony car”. Besides, had the Barracuda been the one to sell, the class might have been called the “fish car”.

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On the Mustang’s left was this amazingly clean A174 Lancer, or “Box Type” as it’s known here. The Box Type Lancer was something of a breakthrough in styling when it was released in 1979. Breaking away from the pseudo-American lines of the A70 (L-Type) Lancer, the rectilinear design was pure Japanese 80’s futurism. The Box Type was available with three engines: the 1.4-litre 4G33 engine with the MCA-Jet carburettor (the one my dad had), the 1.6-litre 4G32, and the 1.8-litre 4G62. While the the 1800 GSR is enough power for our roads, we didn’t get the hottest engine available.

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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Evolution Zero. In Europe, the Box Type was available in EX 2000 Turbo trim level, featuring electronic fuel injection and a turbocharger on its 2.0-litre 4G63. Yes, Mitsubishi performance fans, that 4g63. The road versions made around 160 horsepower, while the rally cars made 280. In Japan, the Box Type was also available with a turbocharged engine, but with the 1.8-litre 4G62.

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Next we have this achingly original W113 SL, nicknamed the “Pagoda” for the way the windshield and hardtop peaks at the sides and dips in the middle. This distinctive crease was created to strengthen the windshield frame and hardtop in case of a rollover. Coming from the scorching 300SL, the W113’s performance was decidedly lukewarm, but it did set the template of succeeding SLs as cruisers for the socially-privileged.

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What makes this W113 special is that it was chosen by Barry Meguiar and the Car Crazy crew to be displayed at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show in Las Vegas, which is basically the biggest aftermarket show in USA.

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Now here’s a car the you’ve probably never seen on our roads before: the Pontiac Fiero. One of GM’s most daring products, the Fiero was a mid-engine two-seat sports car built from 1984 to 1988. This is one of the later GT models, with the improved suspension.

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The Fiero was originally marketed as a commuter car, even if the lead-up suggested anything but. The car was meant to be a real sports car, but budget constraints meant it had to make do with parts from other cars already being produced. Eventually shoddy build quality and “old” GM’s trait of holding off badly-needed upgrades until they can no longer do any good for sales killed off the Fiero in 1990, when Pontiac were well on the way to remedying the car’s faults. So far, the Fiero has no true mid-engine two-seat successor from any American car company.

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Perhaps the most lasting legacy of the Fiero is that the plastic body panels made it easy to completely change the car’s look. With the mid-engine layout, it wasn’t a long stretch to imagine putting a more exotic body onto the frame. Which is just what happened. Kits existed to turn the Fiero into anything the owner might desire, and some brave souls even tried their hand at making their own.

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Personally I find the later Fiero’s styling very attractive. The only change I would make to this example is a slight drop, to decrease those acres of wheel gap. The Fiero did actually live on as styling cues on the 1993 Pontiac Firebird.

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Here’s another GT-86, from the same guys who brought the Fiero along. Compared to the Fiero’s moderately exotic layout, the GT-86’s front-engine rear-drive layout seems ordinary, but so far it’s been proven to be the right formula to make people love it.

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“Dad, when do I get to wear your fancy shoes?”

This one even comes with a son! Or a smaller version of itself, just like Dr. Evil.

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Yes, it was a big hall with much to see. At last year’s MIAS, when we didn’t know the layout had been changed, this was the very hall I hated rushing through.MIAS 150

Check out this beautiful Beetle, done up in just the perfect shade of green.

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That badge is just amazing. Why can we not have badges like this anymore?

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That is a very nice motor. Pretty sure it sounds great too, with those twin side-draft carbs and exquisite headers.

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It propels this clean KE60-series Sprinter sedan. At the time this car was sold, the “Corolla” was still a line of cars instead of just a car, encompassing a dizzying array of bodystyles and engine options, along with the entire Sprinter line.

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Next to the Sprinter was this TA22 Celica in USDM (US Domestic Market) guise. The Celica and Supra share overlapping geneses, with the “Supra” name originally appearing in 1978 as a variant of the A40 Celica.

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This is my favourite generation of the Celica, but I much prefer the JDM specification, with the bumpers that curve up at the corners.

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Just a few steps away from the vintage Toyotas stood this vintage American van. I don’t actually know what this is, as American trucks and vans of this era very much looked alike, with differences only obvious to real fanatics. This one was done up as a United Laboratories Inc. (UniLab) delivery truck.

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Next to the UniLab truck was this hot rod coupe. Again, identifying American cars of this era is an activity that has always evaded me. Then again, in this fashion of customisation, parts from different manufacturers can be exchanged like Lego pieces.

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From American hot rods to Bavarian luxo-cruisers. The E9 BMW was the car that helped cement BMW as the sportsman’s luxury car. It was a very successful racer, spawning the famed 3.0 CSL “Batman” road car, so named for the outlandish aero package it came with from the factory.

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Back in the day, when you saw this in your mirrors approaching rapidly, you moved over without complaints.

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We’ll end the first part with this. Remember the badge at the top of this page? This is where it was stuck on. At first I though it was a Gallardo with some kind of Bizzaro-world Aventador bodykit. Closer inspection revealed that is wasn’t even from Italy. See if you can guess what’s under the gray steel.

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Here’s a clue: that intake in the centre is very commonly seen on our roads, only in this application it’s inverted. In fact, that centre intake comes straight from the donor car. Meanwhile, the headlights are also on something very common on our roads, but hardly ever noticed.

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Yes, you can drop the top. Most of the body panels are unique, but the boot (trunk) lid is not. Again, the boot lid comes from something you’re sure to see on a daily basis, very many times.

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Got it? No? Well take a look at that door handle above. There’s only one car with door handles like that.

Yup, under all that custom bodywork lies an EH/EG Civic, specifically a hatchback. Looking into the car actually reveals much the same interior, trimmed with bits of leather. The centre intake is the same one you can find on the Civic hatch’s front bumper, only inverted. The headlights come from the Yamaha Mio scooter, and the boot lid comes from the second generation Toyota Vios. The car is called the “King Spyder”, which explains the emblem. Apparently they can build it on any donor chassis, but I wonder what happens if you give them a sedan to carry out the conversion on.

Also, I do hope they made some upgrades under the hood, because if my EH Civic hatch is anything to go by, the extra weight from all that bodywork isn’t going to help the car’s performance.

Coincidentally, the King Spyder was placed right in the middle of the hall, next to the stage they had set up. Convenient, as this gives us a spatial and logical spot to halve our coverage of this hall. Up next are all the vintage Japanese iron, along with a surprise, built in Ireland with a French engine and sold through an American company.

– Words by Kristoff, pictures by Eugene.

 

 

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